The above is a quote by the late, great Buddha. A wise fellow, he was. When I see this quote, I think of our modern day, rushed society. No one has time, especially for listening. The world can be selfish, and people only usually want to talk about things that affect them. To me, that is really not a conversation, it’s more like… well, torture, frankly. This is very simple: if you don’t listen, you won’t understand, and therefore, you will not generate any interesting thinking. I think listening pushes you to go deeper, to try and get in the head of the other person in order to understand. I started thinking a lot about this quote, and how it truly is the simplest answer to the most complex of people’s questions. As you know, I work (joyfully) in an office of women who routinely spill their problems (to a most unwilling audience: me). Although torturous as times, listening to them provides me with great insight into the human mind (albeit scary). The point is, their stories and complaints are always one sided, like I wanted to do this, and I told him this and I always need to have the last word, etc. They never take the time out to listen to the other side of the “conversation” because they are really too busy formulating what point they can make about themselves when the other person is done speaking. Then they wonder why they fight with their husband or feud with their friends. They never listen (or learn) from their friends’ problems, because they never really took a second to understand them, instead, in their head, they were most likely thinking, “Hmm, now what story about me could I relate this too?” Maybe this isn’t what the Buddha meant at all, who knows, but this is my interpretation of it. To think well to me is to think clearly, and think of things in many ways, with an open mind. We will fail at this if we fail to understand others’ points of views because then we aren’t thinking well, we are simply thinking one sided. I think the process of understanding also leads us to discover a deeper side of ourselves. Sometimes to fully understand someone, or even yourself, you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone; you’ve got to get dirty, in a sense. You have to be willing to face the things that you may not want to. Sometimes it takes a really long time to understand, and sometimes we may never actually get there, but we can keep asking questions, and keep listening. This may not lead us to enlightenment, but then again, you never know.
“We have to understand well to think well.”